Scenario Preview, Part Nine
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
And with this installment, we wrap up our preview of the scenario set for Infantry Attacks: August 1914. The second edition includes the same 40 scenarios as the first edition, but they’ve been re-designed to match the totally-revised second edition rules set. Because of those changes, particularly to the artillery sub-system, the first edition scenarios aren’t compatible with the second edition rules, and vice-versa - it’s a new game.
And it’s a very good new game, one of which I’m quite proud. Let’s have a look at the final chapter.
Second Army’s Return
Yakov Zhilinski, commanding the Russian North-West Front, had sent Second Army to its doom by insisting on a broad-front advance that left Samsonov’s separated corps vulnerable to individual defeat and envelopment. When the Germans did not follow Second Army’s remnants across the German border into Russian Poland, Zhilinski realized that the Germans must be turning their attention to the Russian First Army. To divert their forces from that front, he ordered the still-intact parts of Second Army and those of the newly-arriving Tenth Army to attack whatever German forces they found in front of them.
It was not a bad plan, but most of the Germans had already left the southern front using the East Prussian railway network. Only a deep penetration that threatened the German Eighth Army’s lines of communication would have had a chance to disrupt the offensive that became the First Battle of the Masurian Lakes, and the Russians did not have the combat strength or logistical infrastructure to mount that sort of effort. The second-line forces left in front of Second and Tenth Armies weren’t needed against First Army, but that didn’t make the fighting any less intense.
6 - 7 September 1914
Following the defeat of the Russian Second Army at Tannenberg, the German Eighth Army turned its attention back to the First Army. Reinforced with two corps and an independent division from the Western Front, Hindenburg rushed his troops eastward to push the Russians off every inch of German soil rather than strike south to finish off Second Army. But the Russians had brought forward reinforcements of their own, with the new Tenth Army taking the field south of First Army’s lines.
As the vanguard of III Siberian Corps and Tenth Army, the riflemen (Russian soldiers stationed in Finland) had been expected to hold their ground to allow those formations to deploy in front of the German advance. But the German Landwehr, gaining great confidence after their successes at Tannenberg, would not be denied. They pushed the troops many considered the Russian Army’s best regular infantry out of the town of Bialla, clearing the German right flank before the First Battle of the Masurian Lakes.
The Finland Rifles might not be Finns, but they’re still plenty tough. The German player is on the attack with hordes of less-than-enthusiastic Landwehr, and must overwhelm the Russians with sheer force of numbers. It’s a reversal of the inaccurate Steamroller stereotype.
8 September 1914
Having driven the riflemen out of Bialla, the shopkeepers and dockworkers of Georg Freiherr von der Goltz’s Landwehr division - now toughened by their combat experience - next turned to a Russian formation of high fighting reputation. The III Siberian Rifle Corps had just arrived at the front after a weeks-long journey from Irkutsk. The planned offensive against First Army could not go forward with the tough Siberians poised to roll up the German right flank.
For the second time in two days, the Landwehr scored a victory over a very good Russian formation. The Germans had massive numerical superiority, despite a lack of machine guns and shortage of artillery, and used it to drive back the Siberians and disrupt them enough to keep them out of the coming Battle of the Masurian Lakes. The good performance of Germany’s part-time soldiers would be the real story of the East Prussian campaign.
Once again, the Germans fling their very worst against the Tsar’s very best. At least this time the Germans have some field guns to help out, but they’re still going to need to use swarm tactics to win here.
Road to Lyck
9 September 1914
Having ordered the Landwehr to attack the Siberians, Eighth Army grew concerned that a strong Russian force around the town of Lyck could attack the Landwehr’s rear flank. Attaching a regular army cavalry brigade to Lt. Gen. Kurt von Morgen’s division of reservists, army commander Paul von Hindenburg ordered Morgen to make a covering attack against the Russians and drive them away from the Landwehr.
The riflemen put up furious resistance, and a massive firefight broke out more fitting to 1814 than 1914. Infantry of both sides blazed away at each other at ranges of 100 meters or less, with massive casualties inflicted. The German advantage in cavalry gave them no edge on the battlefield, as the horsemen dismounted to join the firing line. Despite their much greater numbers the Germans gave way first, leaving the Russians holding the battlefield.
More tough Russian riflemen square off against German regular cavalry (almost as tough) and reservist infantry (not nearly as tough). The Germans are attacking, with good field gun support and a serious edge in numbers. They’re going to need both.
Scheidemann to the Rescue
9 September 1914
German propaganda of 1914 - echoed by some popular historians down to the present day - declared the Russian Second Army destroyed in the Battle of Tannenberg. While Samsonov’s forces had suffered a catastrophic defeat, they were by no means wiped out and several of the late general’s corps had been only marginally involved, or not at all, and maintained considerable fighting power. When German first-line units moved eastward to fight First Army, the Second Army’s new commander, Gen. Sergei Scheidemann, sent his troops moved forward to strike the Germans from the rear.
The Russians said to have been wiped out a week and a half earlier caught the Landwehr completely by surprise. The attack crushed the German front line, and 70th Landwehr Brigade fell back in utter rout, retreating a full 33 kilometers back to Ortelsburg through the course of the night. The Russians failed to follow up their success, having lost most of their logistical support, such as it was, two weeks previously in Second Army’s bitter defeat. The German army command ordered 3rd Reserve Division to prepare to disengage from the front and return to face the revived Second Army, but only a few Russian cavalry patrols actually pursued the fleeing Landwehr.
A Russian regular cavalry division against a German Landwehr Brigade. It’s not going to be pretty, but the Russians have to achieve a great deal in order to claim victory. German losses mean nothing to either side, but they’re going to be pretty severe anyway.
10 September 1914
Having failed to eject the Finland Rifles from their positions astride the road to the key town of Lyck, Lt. Gen Kurt von Morgen requested assistance from the 1st Landwehr Division. Morgen did not inform his superiors of the failure, hoping to break through with the aid of the Landwehr and his attached brigade of cavalry. But both the cavalry and Landwehr commanders duly reported the true situation, leaving Morgen in a tight professional bind. If he could score a rapid success, his dissembling would be forgotten. If not, he could look forward to spending the war counting blankets in some Pomeranian depot.
Morgen brought up all of his division’s artillery - which included only field guns - and summoned his own reserves as well as the Landwehr division. Once again, the riflemen put up fierce resistance, finally giving way by mid-morning. The cavalry followed them to the southwest across the Russian border as they re-joined the Russian Tenth Army, while the two infantry divisions marched northwards toward the flank of First Army.
Hordes of troops brawl on a very small battlefield, in which Russian quality is matched against German quantity. We wrap up August 1914 with a big, simple scenario: chew up the other sides guys as best you can.
And that’s all!
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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and NASA Journalist in Space finalist, he has published countless books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.
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